Hotel Chelsea Tenants Association to Patti Smith: Thanks, But No Thanks

Updated: January 12, 2012 at 12:00 AM

Patti Smith is scheduled to perform a private show for the tenants of the Hotel Chelsea on Thursday night at 8 p.m. Flickr/Shamballah

UPDATE: Patti Smith canceled her Thursday night concert at the Hotel Chelsea after several complaints about the event from hotel tenants.

“She realized nobody in the Chelsea wants her help,” said Zoe Pappas, president of the Hotel Chelsea Tenants Association. “We are thrilled because we showed the landlord we are unified and dignified and we cannot be bought.”

“She told Sam [Himmelstein, the Association’s lawyer] that if we win in court she’s going to play for us,” added Pappas.

Smith issued this statement on her website:

“In respect for the wishes of the Chelsea Hotel Tenants Association I have canceled tonight’s performance. My motivation was solely to serve the tenants. If this serves them better, than I am satisfied.”


While one faction of the remaining 100 or so tenants at the Hotel Chelsea are planning a die-in to protest Thursday night’s Patti Smith concert at the hotel, the 38 members of the Tenants Association are boycotting the event entirely.

Here’s the statement provided exclusively to MetroFocus by the Hotel Chelsea Tenants Association:

“The Chelsea Hotel Tenants Association respectfully declines the invitation of Patti Smith and The Chelsea Hotel management for this evening’s concert. We consider the timing to be unfortunate both due to the publicity, (not generated by the Association) and our legal situation.

The power of media to let Patti Smith assume the leadership in the future of the Chelsea is offensive in light of the fact that she has not communicated directly with tenants. We question her reference to “rightful” tenants in her publicly released statement.

This turn of publicity overshadows our concerns, and conversation with management, and we fear our participation in this event will be misconstrued.

We thank the management for this invitation, and hope that our decision is correctly understood. We also hope that management and tenants will have another opportunity in the future to come together in a constructive and respectful way.”

The controversy over the concert erupted Wednesday when tenants heard of the singer and National Book Award winner’s plans to perform at the hotel. While arguably many of the tenants are fans of Smith, who was once a resident of the landmarked building, they took issue with the fact that Smith was set to perform at the request of the hotel’s owner and landlord, Joseph Chetrit, who is highly unpopular with tenants.

Chetrit is currently locked in a court battle with tenants over construction in the building. MetroFocus published an op-ed Thursday morning by the president of the Hotel Chelsea Tenants Association, Zoe Pappas, in which she describes the mythology of the Chelsea and the issues residents have with the ongoing changes at the hotel.

The authors of the Chelsea Hotel Blog plan to protest the Smith event in their own way — with a die-in. Here’s what they had to say to Smith:

“Patti must not know that the person sponsoring her upcoming event, Joseph Chetrit, is the same developer who took Stanley Bard’s beloved Chelsea Hotel away from him and his family. And surely she is unaware that this is the same Joseph Chetrit whose demolition crews recently gutted over a hundred historic Chelsea Hotel rooms. Finally, if she hasn’t been in some way deceived, we know there’s no way in hell Patti would give a concert in support of a man, Joseph Chetrit, who is presently trying to evict almost thirty Chelsea Hotel residents using both housing and Supreme court.”

Patti Smith, upon learning of the controversy, took to her own blog in an attempt to clear the smoke.

“My small performance for the tenants was my own idea. My hope is that we might have a nice evening and the opportunity to communicate directly. I am an independent person, not owned or directed by anyone. My allegiance is to the Hotel itself, and I have done nothing to tarnish it. It is very difficult for me to embrace change, but my great hope is to witness the Hotel Chelsea find a strong and positive place in the twenty-first century.”

But Smith then performed an unannounced concert at the hotel Wednesday night, a concert the tenants were not invited to. According to the Chelsea Hotel Blog, that show was for her friends and the family of the developer.

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